Tax Rates in the Developed World and in Egypt

Apr 19

According to the renowned economist Paul Krugman, the US is a “low-tax” jurisdiction, with aggregate tax receipts amounting to slightly more than 30% of US Gross Domestic Product. Unsurprisingly, the Scandanavian social democracies have the highest overall ratio of taxes to GDP, with tax receipts in excess of 50% of GDP.  In Egypt, taxes represent only approximately 15% of GDP.  Any economic reform will require raising the ratio of tax receipts to GDP so that the state has the resources to make the necessary investments in public goods such as health, education and infrastructure.  Hopefully, if Egypt evolves into a democracy with meaningful public participation, its ability to collect taxes efficiently will improve dramatically. Indeed, Greece, which is notorious for its citizens’ non-compliance with tax law, still manages to collect tax revenues approaching 40% of its GDP.  I note that perhaps the Egyptian state’s ratio of taxes to GDP somewhat understates its access to resources given the fact that it still owns substantial productive assets; nevertheless, I suspect that there is a lot of room for rationalization (i.e., expansion) of the tax base in a fashion that would be highly progressive.  I have suggested that a property tax be introduced instead of raising marginal income tax rates because of its relative simplicity.  Presumably, a relatively low property tax rate applied widely enough could raise a substantial amount of revenue, and functionally, act as a clawback for state-owned property that was privatized using less than optimal procedures.  In any case, unless the Egyptian state can improve the efficiency of its tax-collection, raise the overall ratio of taxes to GDP, and invest the additional marginal revenue in public goods, it will be very difficult for Egypt to attract sufficient private capital to generate substantial enough growth to solve the structural unemployment problem.

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